Image of people on a seesaw, with one satisfied man to the left balancing three unhappy people to the right

As part of our 70th anniversary season, our 'Inequality & Social Cohesion' seminar will examine the extent and impacts of social and economic inequalities in 21st century Britain. 

This invitation-only seminar will take place at Cumberland Lodge on 28 March 2017, with an introductory briefing, followed by group discussions and a plenary session over dinner. 

It will be led by Julia Unwin CBE, who was until the end of last year the Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.

The event will bring together leading social commentators, parliamentarians, business leaders and researchers, as part of our programme of events that explore the fundamental question of what makes a peaceful, tolerant and inclusive society.

Focus of discussion

Pope Francis once tweeted that 'inequality is the root of social evil'. If that is true, then perhaps reducing inequality should be the policy objective of our community cohesion and integration strategies.

According to a 2016 report by Oxfam, the richest one per cent of the UK population owns more than 20 times the wealth of the poorest fifth, making Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The charity has also sugested that this disparity could well have contributed to the outcome of the EU referendum.

This seminar will explore whether social and economic inequalities negatively affect basic human qualities, such as our ability to trust one another, and our willingness to show kindness. It will also pose the question, can we have a socially cohesive society that is also fundamentally unequal? It will go on to examine the extent to which our answers to that question should shape our social policy.

“The truth is that human beings have deep-seated psychological responses to inequality and social hierarchy. The tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth means that inequality colours our social perceptions. It invokes feelings of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination – which affect the way we relate to and treat each other.” - Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level authors: why society is more unequal than ever', The Guardian (9 March 2014)

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